Skip to comments.Catholic converts on the rise: East Tennessee among nation's top 10 growth areas
Posted on 06/15/2014 4:12:26 AM PDT by markomalley
There was the man inspired by the written words of Pope Francis. There was the agnostic professor. And there was the widow of a Baptist preacher.
All of them Tennesseans, and all of them recent converts to one of the world's oldest Christian faiths.
In the South, Catholicism is growing. The Diocese of Knoxville was recently ranked among the top 10 in the nation for its rate of adult conversions.
All Southeast Tennessee Catholic parishes, including Chattanooga's, fall under the umbrella of Knoxville's diocese, one of 195 in the United States. A diocese is a geographic collection of parishes grouped together under the governance of a bishop. And many of the dioceses producing the most converts to the church are right here in the South, according to a recent study by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
Rates of Catholicism have always been strong in the Northeast and Midwest. But not in the protestant-heavy South.
So it's no wonder that Catholicism is growing faster here.
Mark Gray, a senior research associate at the Georgetown Center, said marriage is a common driver of Catholicism, as non-Catholics marry Catholics. And in Tennessee, non-Catholics and Catholics are more likely to marry simply because there are not enough Catholics to marry only other Catholics.
In the Volunteer State, about 8 percent of people are Catholic. That compares with 40 percent in Massachusetts and the national average of 24 percent.
"Tennessee is the third-least Catholic state in the country, which is exactly where we would expect these conversions to occur, because that 8 percent are likely marrying non-Catholics," Gray said.
In the Catholic Church, conversion is a commitment. It's more formal and involved than switching from one protestant church to another. And conversion is a commitment to the faith, not necessarily a particular church.
Before joining the church, converts take part in a college-like class that can last from nine months to a year.
"It is a very long program, and it's not something we take lightly, nor do the people becoming Catholic take it lightly," said Marvin Bushman, the director of religious education at Cleveland's St. Therese of Lisieux. "It is a big commitment."
Knoxville Bishop Richard F. Stika said the church is growing from rising minority populations, mainly Hispanics. Knoxville recently established a Vietnamese parish. And this part of the country is attracting more retirees and families, many of whom are Catholic.
"We're a growing Church, both in people who are choosing to become Catholic as well as people moving in from out of town," Stika told the diocesan newspaper, The East Tennessee Catholic.
At St. Therese, Brenda Blevins oversees the Catholic conversion program, called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA. The Diocese of Knoxville, which includes 47 parishes, receives about 350 adult converts each year through RCIA.
Some come after marrying or dating a Catholic, but Blevins said many of their recent converts were single. And the RCIA program doesn't want people to just marry into the church.
"We want people to be here because they want to be and because they feel a call," she said.
And each convert has his own story. There are the college-age brothers who just joined together. And the widow of a Baptist minister who married a Catholic. Some come from protestant churches; others have never been baptized into any faith.
"I think part of the reason the Catholic Church is growing so much in Southeast Tennessee is because Southeast Tennessee is part of the Bible Belt," Blevins said. "And there are a lot of faithful Christians here."
I was always intrigued to see the number of RC schools in the areas of the old confederacy where I was stationed. For a relatively small denomination (in that area) they sure seemed to educate a lot of kids.
Praise be to GOD on this feast of the Most Blessed Holy Trinity!
Thank-you for your service and insights.
Not that we couldn't do a whole lot better. I would like to see much more intensive evangelization. My dream...
Southern Americans of today should take comfort knowing that the old Confederacy did have a European friend, and it just happened to be one of the most respected men in the world - not only a head of state, but also the leader of the world’s largest Christian religion. The day will come when Pope Pius IX will be canonized as a Saint. He has already been beatified, which puts him well on his way. When that day comes, Southerners will have a special bragging right, not enjoyed by many nations even today. They will not only be able to boast of his sympathies during and after the great War, but they will also have in their collective possession a relic of the man - a hand written letter and autographed photograph.
American Grace (2010): Over the last few decades, large numbers of Anglothat is, non-LatinoCatholics have been dropping out of or disengaging with the Catholic Church, without being replaced by other Anglo converts. The Catholic fraction of the U.S. population has held steady only because the departing grandchildren of white ethnic immigrants of the first decades of the twentieth century have been roughly balanced by arriving Latino Catholics. Just as white ethnic Catholics have rushed out one door of the Church, they have been replaced by new Latinos rushing in the other door.
The Roman Catholic Church has known for years that its future in the United States depends heavily on Hispanics. The church, which is the largest religious denomination in the country, is already about 40 percent Hispanic, and the demographic change is inexorable: Within the next few decades, Hispanics are expected to make up a majority of American Catholics.
The influx of Hispanics has been a stabilizing factor for the church. Were it not for immigration, Catholicism in the United States would be dwindling as non-immigrant Catholics drift away from the church. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/upshot/hispanic-growth-is-strength-but-also-challenge-for-us-catholic-church.html?_r=0
Evangelical Churches (17%), had the lowest percentage of souls aged 18-29, versus Unaffiliated (31%), Muslims (29%), Historically Black Churches (24%), Mormons (24%) and Other Faiths (24%). Mainline Churches had the greater percentage (23%) of souls 65 and older. U.S. Religious landscape survey; Copyright © 2008 The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. http://religions.pewforum.org/comparisons#
Between 2000 and 2004, the net gain (the number of new churches minus the closed churches) in the number of evangelical churches was 5,452, but mainline and Catholic churches closed more than they started for a net loss of 2,200, while a net gain of 13,024 churches was necessary to keep up with the U.S. population growth. At those rates, by 2050, the percentage of the U.S. population attending church will be almost half of what it was in 1990. http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html
68% of those raised Roman Catholic still are Catholic (higher than the retention rates of individual Protestant denoms, but less than Jews at 76%). 15% are now Protestant (9% evangelical); 14% are unaffiliated. Pew forum, Faith in Flux (April 27, 2009) http://pewforum.org/uploadedfiles/Topics/Religious_Affiliation/fullreport.pdf
80% of adults who were raised Protestant are still Protestant, but (analysis shows) 25% no longer self-identify with the Protestant denomination in which they were raised. ^ More
I wonder how would they answer the following?
1. What is the basis for your assurance of truth?
2. Is an assuredly (if conditionally) infallible magisterium essential for determination of Truth (including which writings and men are of God) and preservation of faith?
3. Does being the historical instruments and stewards of Divine revelation mean that such is that assuredly infallible magisterium?
Are those who knowingly dissent from the latter in rebellion to God?
Ask them and report back, or tell me what you teach them.
Not just immigration, but also conversion, so this article is very much correct.
Set those questions aside and let the new Christian Catholics get to KNOW their faith FIRST.
God Bless you for your commitment to evangelize for both Jesus and the Gospel.
Weither you love him or hate, give Pope Francis CREDIT for helping to increase interest in the faith!
Welcome home, y’all. However, I think calling RCIA a “college-like class” is a bit of a stretch. It does last two semesters, but I wouldn’t call it extremely academic.
Congratulations to all in your diocese.
Tell us what you are doing right.
Unfortunately these questions cannot be set aside. It's the opening gambit to a deeper "truth". Like a Scientologist, one needs to level up their OT's by answering these questions before that truth is revealed.
What? Not islam? barky will be on to slap this down as soon as he’s finished destroying another aspect of America with his latest islamist crap.
Protestants don't HAVE to do any of this. If they are sola Scriptura folks they just read and follow their Bible as best they can. If they sin they just ask God to forgive them. How do they know He does? Because they believe He does.
*no need for confession of sins to a priest,
*no spoken act of contrition in the presence of the priest and then
*no Jesus-authorized priestly pronouncement : Te absolvo...
*no MORTAL (which MUST be confessed before Holy Communion on pain of yet another mortal sin) or VENIAL sins
*and finally, no penance imposed on the sinner, which MUST be done on pain of yet another sin.
And when He had said this,
John 20:22 "And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
Matthew 18:18 "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Catholic priests have the authority to say the words:
1. that mean that God HAS forgiven our sins (and to impose penance);
2. that change bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, God.
They truly have AMAZING and wonderful authority.
Peter and disciples decided on how their next "Vicar of Christ" was to be selected. The "Vicars of Christ" still continue today at the Vatican, rather, using the old name: Vatican Hill.
Of course, for Protestants, if it's not in Scripture, collated by the Catholic Church, then it's not valid.
SO odd that Protestants believe in the Scripture that the Catholic Church collated, and if ANYTHING isn't there, then it's not considered valid to them. I just think that is odd.
If I have erred here I apologize.
I did NOT mean to offend anyone either.
They are all answered in the inquiry period which is the first half of RCIA. Believe me, you have people coming from all faiths and no faith, the questions will be asked and discussed many several times. Especially those “show me” kind of people, they are like St. Thomas, following Jesus but they want as much proof as can be had.
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"First?" What you basis is for assurance of Truth is most primary. You mean get indoctrinated under a false foundational premise without realizing it.